McKinley County Woman Dies From Hantavirus, Spending Package Includes Chaco Drilling Moratorium

Jun 26, 2019

Deadly Case Of Hantavirus Reported In New MexicoAssociated Press

New Mexico health officials are confirming the first fatal case of hantavirus this year.

The state Department of Health says the victim was a 42-year-old woman from McKinley County. The agency conducted an environmental investigation at the woman's home but didn't release any details about how she contracted the virus.

The respiratory disease is fatal in about 40 percent of cases. It can be transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva that contain the microscopic virus.

Early symptoms include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and a cough that progresses to respiratory distress.

This is the second case reported in New Mexico this year. The other patient, also from McKinley County, survived.

New Mexico reported five cases in 2017 and none in 2018.

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty In Guardians Embezzlement CaseAssociated Press

Prosecutors say an Albuquerque man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud vulnerable and special needs clients in New Mexico and is facing a seven-year prison term.

They say 58-year-old William Harris pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiring to defraud the federal government out of money and property from November 2016 to July 2017.

Harris was accused of siphoning government benefits intended for Ayudando Guardians clients who couldn't manage their own finances, including those under court-ordered legal guardianships.

The now-defunct Ayudando Guardians was an Albuquerque-based non-profit corporation that provided guardianship, conservatorship and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs.

Harris' 72-year-old wife was the former president of Ayudando Guardians. Susan Harris goes on trial in September for money laundering and other charges.

6 Children Among 8 People Injured In Fatal New Mexico CrashAssociated Press

Authorities say a Missouri woman has died in a car crash on a New Mexico highway that injured eight other people including six children.

New Mexico State Police say 63-year-old Mary Lee Kelley of St. Louis was a passenger in a van that crashed about 6 a.m. Wednesday on Interstate 40 east of Cuervo.

She was declared dead at the scene.

Police say the van driven by a 30-year-old St. Louis woman struck an unoccupied SUV that was parked on the highway's shoulder.

The driver was treated at the scene for undisclosed injuries and an 18-year-old female passenger was airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital for treatment. Their names weren't released.

Police say six children in the van were transported to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life threatening.

Teen Mom May Testify Against Boyfriend In Shooting Of InfantGallup Independent, Associated Press

The teenage mother of an infant girl who police say was shot in the face at a New Mexico motel may testify against her boyfriend.

The Gallup Independent reports Shayanne Nelson pleaded guilty last week to third-degree child abuse in an agreement that comes with the condition that she testify in Tyrell Bitsilly's trial.

Nelson told police she was in a Gallup, New Mexico, motel shower with Bitsilly when her 3-year-old boy found a gun and accidentally shot her infant daughter in December.

The 21-year-old Bitsilly is facing child abuse charges.

Prosecutor Earl Rhoads says the baby is still missing part of her skull and may need a metal plate. He says she is permanently deaf in her left ear and paralyzed on the left side of her face.

Bond Set For Mom Charged In Child And Animal Abuse CaseAssociated Press

A judge has ruled that a New Mexico couple can be released on bond as they await trial in an abuse case marked by allegations of child beatings and slain pets.

Martha and Timothy Crouch made initial court appearances Wednesday, two days after their arrests in Aztec.

The mother is charged with child abuse and extreme cruelty to animals on accusations she struck and bruised a teenage daughter, shot the girl's dog as a way to punish her, and boiled puppies.

Her husband is charged with obstructing the child abuse investigation, a misdemeanor.

He was released on a $1,000 unsecured bond. A cash bond for his wife was set at $50,000.

The local public defenders' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the couple's behalf.

Chaco Drilling Moratorium Included In Spending Measure - Associated Press

U.S. land managers would be prohibited from using federal funds to approve oil and gas projects near Chaco Culture National Historical Park for the next year under a measure approved by the U.S. House.

Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico included the language in a spending package that cleared the chamber Tuesday.

The language aims to codify a commitment from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to defer leases within 10 miles of the park while regulators prepare a new resource management plan.

Legislation that calls for permanently banning drilling on federal lands within the buffer is pending. It would not affect land owned by the Navajo Nation or individual tribal members.

Tribes and environmentalists have been advocating for more protections, saying the region is full of culturally significant sites.

New Mexico Governor Replaces 2 Members Of Investment Council - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has replaced two members of the State Investment Council that oversees state trusts worth $23 billion.

The first-year Democratic governor on Tuesday announced the appointments of securities attorney L. Michael Messina and community college finance official Tracy Hartzler. They replace Lynn Hoffman and Scott Smart.

Messina has worked at a private legal practice that specializes in financial and commercial transactions. He previously directed the National Health Law Program at the University of California Los Angeles.

Hartzler is the vice president of finance and operations at Central New Mexico Community College and previously worked as an analyst for the Legislature's lead budget oversight committee.

Lujan Grisham is an advocate for increasing spending on early childhood education from the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Patriot Movement Targets Vote Access, Campaign Finance Laws - Associated Press

Efforts to repeal recent New Mexico laws by referendum are targeting same-day voter registration and new campaign finance regulations for the first time.

The Secretary of State's Office said Tuesday it received the petition applications from the Bernalillo County Patriot Group and was reviewing them.

Several other self-described patriot groups have sought approval to circulate petitions that could overturn gun control measures, a ban on coyote killing contests, minimum wage increases and more. The challenged laws were approved by first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.

None of the signature petitions have been allowed so far.

Stefani Lord of the Bernalillo County group urged Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to approve the petitions so that voters might directly decide whether to overturn laws by referendum.

Man Charged With Impersonating Federal Agent To Be Released - Associated Press

A federal judge in Oklahoma City says the spokesman for a group of armed civilians that patrols the U.S.-Mexico border and who has been jailed on charges that he impersonated a federal agent should be released to a halfway house.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon Erwin on Tuesday ordered 44-year-old James Christopher Benvie of Albany, Minnesota, to be released to a halfway house in Las Cruces, New Mexico, once authorities find a place for him.

A grand jury in New Mexico indicted Benvie last week on two counts of impersonating a Border Patrol agent in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, on April 15 and 17.

Erwin also ordered Benvie to find a job, wear a GPS monitoring device and stay at least 10 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border once placed at the halfway house.

Prosecutors alleged Benvie was a flight risk.

Mine Cleanup Under Way In Gila National Forest - Associated Press

Officials with the Gila National Forest say the first phase of a cleanup project at the Royal John Mine and Mill is nearly complete.

Past lead and zinc mining activities left an estimated 90,000 cubic yards of tailings and waste rock material along the upper reaches of Cold Springs Creek. The contaminated material is being consolidated into one spot where it will be permanently capped.

Officials say this will limit the potential for the contaminants to reach the surrounding environment.

The area will be cordoned off with a steel rail fence and seeded with native grasses.

The work is expected to be finished in late July.

The second phase will involve closing the mine's adits and shafts. The contract for that work is scheduled to be awarded later this summer.